help me get back into console gaming!
December 3, 2011 7:56 AM   Subscribe

So I used to game a lot as a kid. PC gaming, SNES and Nintendo 64 and Playstation - went I went off to college, I basically stopped playing console games (cause I knew I needed to focus on school!). Now 10 years later, I'd like to get back into it....

Nowdays I'm not balancing school and work, and have a job with discretionary income so I am able and don't feel guilty about splurging.

So I'm thinking bout getting into console gaming again - I was big into RPGs, action, flight simulator, and first person shooters. Emulators are definetly an option for the older systems (I missed the entire generation of PS2, Gamecube and so on).

But I'd like to get a new console - any suggestions? Am leaning towards the XBox 360 or PS3, but there's so many different packages and variations I'm not sure where to start!
posted by waylaid to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (29 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If going for quality of graphics and bluray capabilities, the PS3 is your best bet. If you're interested in motion based gaming, the Xbox 360 currently has the best implementation with Kinect (not counting the Wii which has the largest library of motion based games).

For online gaming, the PS3 is the cheaper route as the XBOX requires a Live account. The tradeoff is that the PS3 online games are more decentralized.

Let's see what else...if there's a particular game that you've seen that is very interesting, I'd definitely factor that in with the decision. For me, I have a PS3 and a Wii...and only a Wii because of the retro NES and newer Zelda games.
posted by samsara at 8:26 AM on December 3, 2011

I'm in a similar boat. What about the wii? The games on that tend to be a lot more like the games of our youth (more cartoony, side-scrolling, etc) and you've got the virtual console games.

Also, a lot cheaper than the other consoles.
posted by modernserf at 8:27 AM on December 3, 2011

I would go by platform-exclusives to pick a console. Want Kinect and Halo? Xbox. Want Uncharted and Blu-ray? PS3.

And you're lucky that you're coming into the game late. You can pick up the best games of their respective years for a steal. I would work through "best of" catalogs (maybe via Metacritic scores) from platform release years to the present, so you can see games get better and better.
posted by supercres at 8:31 AM on December 3, 2011 [2 favorites]

Hm - I'm not a big fan of the Wii nor the types of games. I like my games to be longer and epic. If I want a fun quick fix, there's the smartphone.
posted by waylaid at 8:35 AM on December 3, 2011

Some things to consider are the types of games that you enjoy. I think, in deciding between the 360 and PS3, you need to look at the console exclusives. These are gross generalizations but:

The Wii is going to have the most family-friendly games, including platformers and adventure games. Wii games are not usually cross-platform, and most of the games worth playing are the ones made by Nintendo. You can also download NES, SNES, Genesis, and TG-16 games that you may have played when you were younger, and the systems is backwards compatible with GameCube games that you missed. Notable exclusives: Mario, Zelda, Metroid, Smash Brothers, Wii Sports.

The 360 skews heavily towards first-person shooters and mature-themed games. The major exclusive franchise is Halo, while most other blockbuster titles are also available on PS3. Lots of titles available on the Live arcade, especially in the genres that don't have a huge presence at retail (puzzle, platforming). Notable exclusives: Halo, Fable, Forza, Gears of War, Banjo Kazooie.

The PS3 has a mix of genres, getting the shooters and some of the family-friendly games like Little Big Planet. PSN offers a lot of what the 360 Live arcade does. System also doubles as a Blu-Ray player. Notable exclusives: Little Big Planet, Warhawk, Motorstorm, Ratchet & Clank, Uncharted, God of War, Gran Turismo.
posted by erstwhile at 8:36 AM on December 3, 2011

You should visit the generation you missed (PS2/GameCube)--it was awesome awesome awesome. Shouldn't be very expensive either, both for games and console. I still think a lot of the games that came out for that gen are way better than most of what's around now for the Wii/XBox/PS3.
posted by ifjuly at 8:40 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

also...why has there been such a long gap in terms of new consoles? The PS3 came out like 5 years ago?
posted by waylaid at 9:03 AM on December 3, 2011

In terms of price to performance, PC's are way ahead of consoles right now, and because of Steam, GoG, etc, there are vastly more games available on PCs than for either console.

As far as which console to get -- which ones do you friends have? Because that's really the main difference. If you want to play stuff like MW, you want to play on the platform that your friends also have.

Other than that, it's a toss up, though Xbox has a ton of old xbox first generation games available on XBLA for download you can play if you missed that generation.
posted by empath at 9:14 AM on December 3, 2011

I'm actually not huge on multiplayer - really enjoy the solo stuff more. Most of my friends nowdays (i drifted out of that world) are not into gaming (I'm in my early thirties now)
posted by waylaid at 9:16 AM on December 3, 2011

I don't know if this is still the case, put the PS3 used to have more RPGs than the XBox.
posted by smirkette at 9:37 AM on December 3, 2011

If you decide to get an XBOX, just look for the cheapest bundle you can find that includes a hard drive. I think they all include hard drives now, but double-check. They used to have models that came with a 4GB memory card (or something like that) which is not as useful as having 20GB+ of space. It comes in handy for storing downloaded (XBOX Live Arcade, XBOX Indie) games and for installing a game to eliminate the noise from the optical drive.

XBOXes have been much, much noisier in the past than the PS3, FWIW. I have one of the grey xboxes that is extremely loud. They've gone through a hardware revision since then. Now they're all shiny and black, though I can't comment on the noise.

You might try to find out which controller (PS3 vs XBOX) you prefer. I thought I was a big fan of the PS2 controller, which is more or less the same as the PS3 controller. Now I find I much prefer the XBOX controller.

Other than that, you just need to decide which console exclusives you're more interested in. Either way, there are still a lot of cross-platform games that'll keep you busy. Personal favourites from the last few years are the Assassin's Creed series, Red Dead Redemption, Far Cry 2, and Batman: Arkham Asylum.
posted by TangoCharlie at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2011

also...why has there been such a long gap in terms of new consoles? The PS3 came out like 5 years ago?
Yeah, that's weird... PS3 came out in 2006, just two years after the PS2.

Nintendo is coming out with an update to the Wii, the Wii U pretty soon.

Anyway, if you really want to get into gaming, what about PC gaming? These days a lot of the major console releases show up on PC as well. Skyrim, for example (which no one will shut up about) is on PC and PS3. GTA 5 will be released on PC (although a bit late). There are tons and tons of games available on Steam, including free to play games like Team Fortress and so on. Lots and lots of Indy games.
posted by delmoi at 9:46 AM on December 3, 2011

I would advise you to try both the Xbox 360 and PS3 and make your choice based on which controller you like better - the left thumbstick is in a very different position, and that causes some love/hate issues for some folks. I've always loved the layout of the Xbox controller, for instance, and the PS3 one just feels wrong to me.

Aside from things like exclusives and minor graphical differences, the gaming experience is largely the same on the two. I'd use the controller as your decision-maker.
posted by jbickers at 9:50 AM on December 3, 2011

The console gap is because there is no major hardware change driving a new generation of sales. I suspect we will see more coming in 2013.

Buy either of the two you mentioned. I have both, and use them regularly, but the 360 has the edge in terms of games, especially exclusives. Big name titles, like Skyrim, will hit both platforms.
posted by ellF at 9:53 AM on December 3, 2011

also...why has there been such a long gap in terms of new consoles? The PS3 came out like 5 years ago?

NES - 1985; SNES - 1991; N64 - 1996

PSX - 1994; PS2 - 2000; PS3 - 2006

Always 5-6 years so this current generation isn't so much slower to change really.
posted by Winnemac at 9:57 AM on December 3, 2011

I'll also add that there is no meaningful difference in the quality of graphics of the same game on XBOX vs PS3. Cross-platform games will look almost identical. There are usually "comparison" videos or posts that go up when a new cross-platform comes out and I have never seen a game look so much better on one over the other that the graphics quality is worth considering over any other factor.

I would argue that Uncharted 3 has the best graphics of any console game, though the quality of Gears of War 3's graphics are also exceptional. They both have the advantage of being developed exclusively for their platform.

Re: RPG choice: Both of this year's knockout RPGs, Skyrim and Dark Souls, are cross-platform, as is Fallout 3. Mass Effect 1 is XBOX exclusive, but 2 is cross-platform.
posted by TangoCharlie at 9:58 AM on December 3, 2011

Do you have a PC that can handle gaming now? My boyfriend said that you can play most Xbox exclusives on PC, what with it being a Microsoft product and all. If you do have one, that might be a good reason to go PS3. Then if any Xbox game looks awesome, just play it on PC.
posted by imalaowai at 10:17 AM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

XBox = FPS & Sports, especially online co-op
PS3 = RPG and Funner games

There's quite a bit of overlap. On the PS3 you're going to have a *lot* more of the Asian-style long-story type RPGs, if that's what you're talking about.

I'd probably recommend the PS3. It's still a fantastic box.
posted by rhizome at 12:12 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

If you're considering at all a portable console, the Nintendo DS is a lot of fun. It has a good selection of RPGs. The graphics aren't nearly on the level of XBox 360 or PS3, but they're decent and it's great to take on trips. Plus, the games are relatively inexpensive.
posted by wondermouse at 1:24 PM on December 3, 2011 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend said that you can play most Xbox exclusives on PC, what with it being a Microsoft product and all. If you do have one, that might be a good reason to go PS3. Then if any Xbox game looks awesome, just play it on PC.

No, Xbox exclusives are exclusives for a reason. Microsoft being the largest OS maker has nothing to do with what games hit PC. There is a Games for Windows shared login tied to Xbox Live accounts for some PC games, but it doesn't mean both platforms will play the games.

There were sometimes ports of earlier games in the series (like the original Halo or the original Gears of War), but in general, these don't come to the PC anymore because the consoles have taken over these games' base and generate the most revenue.

As for which console, it depends what you're into and what you care about. I play on consoles and PC, but mostly PC lately.Sony lets you play online free, and the PS3 lets you use whatever hard drive fits. Xbox charges via Xbox Live to play games online (I know you said you're not into multiplayer, but you never know, and social features are becoming quite the standard). Being over 30 has nothing to do with who plays online. Also, Xbox 360 ties you into their own hard drives.

So it depends what you want. The Xbox isn't just shooters and kids playing. And the PS3 got to a slow start, but it has blossomed.

I'd recommend you get the PS3 and the HD Ico & Shadow of the Colossus pack. But while lots of games are multiplatform, see what exclusives are out there and decide based on that if you're still stuck after cost and other things considered.
posted by cmgonzalez at 3:24 PM on December 3, 2011

I'm actually not huge on multiplayer - really enjoy the solo stuff more

PS2 with a truckload of second hand titles, or 360 with large harddrive + Earth Defence Force 2017 + Deadly Premonition.
posted by Bangaioh at 4:33 PM on December 3, 2011

I'm a professional who is probably (definitely) way too old to be playing as many console games as I do, so hopefully my wasted "youth" will be helpful to you. Sorry, this is probably going to get long. I can't help you with PC gaming, but since you specified console games, I'm in luck. I'm going to link to reviews or official sites, because Wiki is full of spoilers, and if you like story-based games, what is the point then?

What console should you get? As mentioned, the Wii is more oriented towards family-friendly games, but there are some major exceptions to that rule:
  • MadWorld (practice your chainsaw skills on the hapless)
  • No More Heroes and No More Heroes 2 (the story of a nerd and lamer who buys a lightsaber off of eBay and decides to fight his way through an assassin tournament for the hell of it. Startlingly good, full of references to things as diverse as anime, luchadors, and the Wim Wenders film Paris, Texas.) For what it's worth, there's a port of these games (both, I think? I could be wrong?) for the PS3. But as you're swinging a sword in the game, the Wiimote actually seems natural.
  • If you were ever into Zelda games, there's Twilight Princess and Skyward Sword.
  • Silent Hill: Shattered Memories (Survival horror. Wasn't expecting it to be any good as it's a remake of Silent Hill 1, and was pleasantly surprised. Multiple endings.)

    If you get a 360, don't get the 4GB deal you'll see around; you'll likely want the 250GB HD because that's where you'll store all your game saves and game downloads and so on. As mentioned, you need to pay for multiplayer online (that's what XBox Live is - and you have to physically call them to stop it once you start. They really don't make it easy to stop getting charged for it.)

    The 360 exclusives you might want to play are:
    • Alan Wake (survival horror, sort of like Stephen King: the video game. YMMV accordingly. But it's pretty good as they go, although not the best in that genre.)
    • Deadly Premonition (Other sites may say Alan Wake is like Twin Peaks, but if you want a game that that is truly Lynchian - down to the complete bafflement of critics trying to figure out if it's horrible or a work of genius - this is your game.)
    • Lost Odyssey (a JRPG I probably sank 90+ hours into. It's about an immortal man who's lost several important chunks of his memory, and his quest to figure out why he's even immortal. The clothing choices are really questionable, but the writing, until the very end at least, is pretty rock-solid and downright grim, especially on the subjects of life and death, of course. One of his memories, which you read in text chunks involves watching generations of villagers die young from drinking tainted groundwater due to a nearby mine. This is not the sort of immortal who decides to spend his life re-attending high school.)
    • Mass Effect (1, 2, upcoming 3) (science fiction western RPG set in space. "Mass Effect"is effectively like melange, if you're wondering what the name means. Games by Bioware tend to be pretty good. n.b. Mass Effect 2 and 3 are/will be available for both the 360 and PS3, but Mass Effect itself is a 360 exclusive.)
    If you decide to get a PS3, it doubles as a Blu-Ray player. The PS3 will play many (but not all) PS2 and PSX games, but then you gotta deal with pixelation issues, of course.

    Some PS3 exclusives:
    • Heavy Rain (a murder mystery with multiple possible endings and a lot of quicktime events; it's like those choose-your-own-adventure books. I loved it when I played it, but upon thinking about it some more, now I'm more ambivalent. But form your own opinion. Oh, and if you play it, come back and play Press X to Jason: The Game. )
    • I personally have an undying love for the Metal Gear Solid game series. MGS4 is a PS3 exclusive. If you haven't played any games in this series, you might think that it's one of those war games about grizzled marines. It really, really is not at all like any of those. The games have their massive flaws, but I will old-man-wrestle anyone to defend their honor. Metal Gear Solid 2, 3 and Peace Walker come bundled in the HD bundle for either PS3 or 360, but, as I said, MGS4 is a PS3 exclusive, and MGS1 is a PSX game you can pick up really cheaply.
    Other recommended games for either the PS3 or 360:
    • Bioshock (a hilarious critique of Objectivism set in a beautiful Art-Deco underwater city. PS3 or 360)
    • Dragon Age (a more traditional high fantasy sort of setting, but it's a fun, well-done one. Get the "Ultimate Edition" if you get Dragon Age 1. Dragon Age 2 is out as well. PS3 or 360)
    • Fatal Frame (PS2), Fatal Frame 2, Fatal Frame 3 (excellent Japanese survival horror games. Not for the weak of heart. Multiple endings usually.)
    • The Silent Hill series (1, 2, 3, and 4 only - beware the rest. Silent Hill 2 is probably the real classic, if you only had to play one game. They share a setting but aren't chronological, really - 1 and 3 are, but 2 and 4 are sort of tangential. These are survival horror games set in a haunted town where, in a sense, you only find inside what you bring with you.)
    • ICO and Shadow of the Colossus (two incredibly beautiful fantasy games, in HD, together at last!)
    • Okami (a mythological fantasy that looks and plays like a living ink painting.)
    • Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant (deeply weird fantasy set in the 1910s in Asia and various parts of Europe. Expect many weird references to history, literature, and mythology.)
    • If you really, really want to waste large amounts of time on good J-RPGs, I guess you'd have to go with the Suikoden series. (Five games and counting)
    • Another Japanese fantasy/occult/cyberpunk/apocalyptic/??? series I'm fond of is the Shin Megami Tensei (Megaten) series. There are many, many entries in this series, and almost all of them are very good. Some thoughts where to start:
    • The Assassin's Creed series (the plot is ridiculous, and you can skip the first game easily, but it's sort of about medieval Assassins parkouring over, under, and through beautifully recreated medieval buildings and ancient ruins, in the case of Rome. Then you stab fools in the face with your hidden knives.)
    • As for action games, um, have you played the Devil May Cry series? Over-the-top, but fun.
    Okay, those were clearly far more recommendations than you really needed, but it's a good start. I can't help you out with FPSes or flight simulators, obviously, but maybe someone else will step in. Memail me if you have any specific questions!

  • posted by vetala at 6:11 PM on December 3, 2011 [6 favorites]

    Beware: the Something Awful article about Deadly Premonition linked in vetala's comment above is chock-full of spoilers, avoid reading it for now if you intend to play the game, because it is not the sort of title where the game mecahnics are the point of interest.
    posted by Bangaioh at 1:53 AM on December 4, 2011

    Ok, I think I'm settled on the Playstation 3. Does it really matter (especially if I get a used one) on the hard drive size?
    posted by waylaid at 4:08 PM on December 4, 2011

    Oops, sorry about that Deadly Premonition link! I totally forgot, and was more thinking of how that review talked about how it was simultaneously a horrible game and a great one.

    As for HD sizes for the PS3, I would definitely get the largest you can afford. There are no memory cards for the PS3 games; game saves and downloaded games and downloadable content is directly put on the PS3's HD. If you get a lot of DLC - and that seems to be the way of the future, release a partially-finished game and have the rest of the game be DLC - you will fill up your HD very quickly (as I'm discovering myself, with my elderly 60 GB unit). If you have old PS2 or PSX saves, you can buy a USB accessory that allows you to read from or load these old saves onto virtual memory cards on the HD - but again, you need the HD space.

    If you look at the prices, actually, it's pretty similar to get a refurbed older PS3 with a small HD and a new PS3 with a large HD. As an example (and shop around, this is just a single online example) on Gamestop the used PS3 with the 60 GB HD is $219.99, and the NEW PS3 with the 160 GB HD is $249.99. A used PS3 with a 20 or 40 GB HD is $199.99. In this case, I'd say it's worth the extra $30-$50 to get the 100-120 extra GB. I'd almost say that it isn't worth getting the old refurbed ones because the HDs are too small. Around Christmas time you're also likely to see some nice bundle deals.

    And a protip that I was too stupid to figure out for the longest time: the wireless controllers charge using a USB cable. That, obviously, does not need to be plugged into the USB port in your console. It can be plugged into ANY USB port, such as on your laptop. So if your controller is dying during a really epic playing session, just plug it into the closest available port and keep going. :)
    posted by vetala at 5:26 PM on December 4, 2011

    One correction to vetala's post: no modern PS3 can play PS2 games. That feature was ripped out some time ago. I suggest getting the latest PS3 slim with the smallest hard drive possible, and replace it with as large a laptop hard drive as you can -- it's a one-screw, 5 minute job to put a 500GB+ drive into the thing.

    If PS2 games are of interest, buy a PS2. They're also very, very cheap these days.
    posted by ellF at 8:32 PM on December 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

    That's a good idea to replace the HD instead, actually. Shows how out of date my PS3 is; it is so old it's one of the ones which has full PS2 hardware emulation, not just software emulation. So, I apologize for the misinformation for current systems; it's just true for me with my old system.

    As there are many, many worthwhile games on the PS2, especially in the genres the OP has said they like, buying a cheap (they are now $40 or less) PS2 is worth it if you enjoy gaming. many titles are being re-released for the PS3 in their HD versions, but many never will, especially from smaller developers.

    Many classic PSX games can be bought on the Playstation Network (such as the original Metal Gear Solid or Silent Hill) and downloaded onto the PS3 like that.
    posted by vetala at 9:11 PM on December 4, 2011

    You can now also buy a few PS2 games on the PSN, most notably God Hand, so if nothing else that's the PS3's existence justified right there.
    posted by Bangaioh at 12:48 AM on December 5, 2011

    Thanks everyone - this has been great!
    posted by waylaid at 9:38 AM on December 5, 2011

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